How American Gardeners get Answers

\The University of Minnesota conducted a survey of over 1,000 folks and this was the answer to where Americans get advice for their gardening problems;

Their neighbor.

That’s right . . . their neighbor.

The survey of 1,000 Minnesota gardeners published in the January–March, 2008 issue of HortTechnology showed that although respondents viewed the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum as more credible than garden centers, 78% of respondents indicated that they were most likely to turn to neighbors and friends for gardening advice.

If you read the entire article you will find that the real motivation for the survey was to find out if gardeners were using university sites, and or arboretums to answer their horticultural questions.

What his also suggest is that the friendly local landscape designer is not the 1st one called and I for one am not shedding a tear over this.


I remember back earlier in my career when I let homeowner’s drag me all over the yard. Like walking their dog looking for a good place to do some business.

I hated that, I really hated that. The thought of being drug around the yard looking at every teeny-tinsy little problem.

Every little brown spot of lawn.

Every shrub with a broken branch.

Every bare patch of grass.

Ahhhhhhhhh! Enough to drive me crazy.

So if Americans want to ask their neighbor about their bare patches, broken branches, dead geraniums, and wilted tomato’s have at it.

This is all little stuff, end-of-the line stuff, minutiae. We need to start with the big picture and work our way down.

It’s big picture time when I hope those homeowners are calling the professional. This is the time when big mistakes, big dollars and big time can be most influenced.

The report really doesn’t get into what kind of advice is being sought. The depth, or area . . . so I am speculating on they types of questions homeowners are asking homeowners.

Questions, where to?

I can say this-I look at university sites all the time. Especially Ohio State(here web garden, and fact sheet list) and Cornell, (another Cornell page worth a look), tremendous information and it’s all right their for you to absorb. I also refer back a lot to my pics from several trips to Longwood Gardens just outside of Philadelphia, PA.

Home ideas garden at Longwood

[ This area of Longwood suggest ideas for the home landscape. ]

If you’re a professional what sites do you use for reference? Are there pics you go back to for information or inspiration?

Finally; if you’ve been in the business for awhile do you still get asked about the brown spot in the grass? or some other crazy such question. You know the ones I’m talking about.

If you’re a homeowner reading this . . . who do you ask for advice? The neighbors? The local garden center? How about the big box employee(just kidding)? My Blog!?! . . . Do you look at university or arboretum websites? Have you found them helpful?

Thanks to for posting this article. Noticing the accompanying picture . . . I think they could have done a little better than using an image from a commercial for NFL apparel. Just my .02

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. Ok, as requested, a homeowner responds 🙂

    I am looking at my yard, and envisioning the gradual landscaping job that is required. But. I don’t know how to find a good person to consult about some issues, particularly around retaining wall corrections.

    For example, we have some retaining walls in place that are about 4 inches thick poured concrete, perhaps 4 feet tall, with no drain holes in place. They’re about 20 years old, still intact, but I can see hairline cracks that indicate that the lack of drainage is an accumulating problem. Do I just drill out some holes in the concrete with a big masonry bit (do they make forsner bits in masonry??) and then retrofit some PVC pipe? Or is that a really dumb move?

    There are also a couple of places where there is a gap between these cement walls and an alternate block arrangement for retaining walls, and the gap isn’t adequately filled, so there has been gradual loss of soil and a dip in the ground. On one side, this is along some tile blocks that make a 3 step stairwell, and the top step is rocky because of the soil loss. I want to know how to fix this so it stays fixed.

    I don’t know what the name of the job category is that I would look for, and I don’t know how to get someone who is good at what they do and willing to help me diagnose the problem and prescribe some solutions.

    Know anyone good in the BC Lower Mainland area? (just kidding … but seriously, it’s a challenge for a homeowner to know the variety of expertise in this area to even begin to get help).

    Thanks for responding, sounds like you do need some local professional help to guide you along. Especially with DRAINAGE problems . . . good luck.

  2. Okay, here’s my situation. My church owns the house (and property) where I live (I’m a parish priest). My predecessor was a gardener with impeccable taste (if not always foresight — planting bamboo, and no idea how big the trees would get), but he ran toward English Cottage gardens, AND he had three big-time helpers who were parishioners. I have perhaps about an acre planted in garden areas of all kinds, but simply too much for me to keep up. I hate to lose his beautiful specimens, though.

    I have several parishioners who are master gardeners. I have asked them for advice. I sometimes receive some helpful VERBAL advice, but no one seems willing to come walk the yard with me and dream with me and make suggestions.

    Last year I met a horticulturist at the farmer’s market, and she came to my house twice last year — once to walk the yards with me and make one or two helpful suggestions, once to actually work alongside me and show me how to do some bed reduction (without just running the lawn mower over beautiful specimens. I couldn’t afford her more than that last year, but she was VERY helpful.

    I’ve bought lots of gardening books, which I consult regularly (everything from shrubs to small trees to pruning, to how to thin my veggies). I sometimes just google something like “pruning apple trees” — I do tend to consider the university and extension sites most reliable, though I’ll read extensively and see what others have to say.

    So, in answer to your query, I consult a number of sources that I consider reliable. My perennial gardens are a blessing (but my true love is my veggies), but I wish I had a landscape designer who would walk the grounds with me and provide suggestions, and maybe even drawings and “to-do” lists! I wish I had a gardener. I wish I had parishioners who were excited about the rewards of helping me maintain my gardens, either because of friendship with me, the exercise of good stewardship over a true legacy for the parish (it’s almost as good as an arboretum, if it’s kept up!) or because of the promise of interesting new starts for their own gardens!

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